Sunday, May 07, 2006

I was hoping this wouldn't happen...

I was afraid of this: (Reuters)

Cardinal urges legal action against Da Vinci Code
In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code", a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded. Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code -- A Masterful Deception."


"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.

"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.

"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind....

There is no right to "respect." Thanks to all who voluntarily caved to pressure to censor the Mohammed cartoons, we are now seeing efforts to stifle speech that is up-front fictitious, but critical of Christianity. It won't be effective until Christians start sawing off people's heads, but that's where the voluntary resignation of a right to free speech is leading. Fanatics will learn that if they're willing to kill people over it, we'll stop offending them. Is this the lesson we want to teach the world? That violence and terrorism really does pay? Think about it a bit. Where will this stop?

Thanks to Bidinotto for the link.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A great article over at TCSdaily (formerly TechCentralStation) about why socialism isn't dead yet:

What mattered for Sorel, in both cases, is not the scientific truth or falsity of the myth believed in, but what believing in the myth does to the lives of those who have accepted it, and who refuse to be daunted by the repeated failure of their apocalyptic expectations. How many times have Christians in the last two thousand years been convinced that the Second Coming was at hand, only to be bitterly disappointed -- yet none of these disappointments was ever enough to keep them from holding on to their great myth. So, too, Sorel argued, the myth of socialism will continue to have power, despite the various failures of socialist experiments, so long as there are revolutionaries who are unwilling to relinquish their great myth. That is why he rejected scientific socialism -- if it was merely science, it lacked the power of a religion to change individual's lives.

Not sure if I agree with the socialism-as-myth meme for why it's taking so long to die, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

Also good from TCS, thoughts on the rampant idiocy on Capitol Hill about high gas prices:

Democrats favor higher gasoline taxes and higher gasoline prices -- except when gasoline prices are high. While claiming concern about rising levels of CO2, they demand gasoline price caps to "protect consumers." Don't they understand that high gas prices provide the best incentive to transition to more environmentally friendly fuels? Democrats who object to higher gas prices simply aren't serious about dealing with climate change.

Republicans favor letting oil markets "work" -- except when gasoline prices are high. Don't they understand the cure for higher prices is -- higher prices? Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) threatens a "windfall profits" tax on "excessive" oil company profits. Hey Arlen, been there, done that.

If he needs a reminder of the sorry history of this policy, here's one from Nobel Laureate economist Thomas Schelling before the Joint Economic Committee in 1979. He explains the counter-productive incentives this policy creates:

"Any windfall profits tax ... is ... like the IRS treatment of casino gains and losses. The government proposes to capture only the 'excessive profits' of the lucky strikes.... If you gamble ... and win ... the IRS will share your winnings with you, and indeed the bigger you win, the higher the share the IRS takes. If you lose, you lose alone; the IRS neither commiserates nor shares in your loss.... This is a sure way to discourage risky enterprises.... We want people to ... risk capital in the search for new petroleum, and in the development of new technologies for liquid fuel."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ministry of Silly Links: Part II

Continuing my Ministry of odd/funny/otherwise noteworthy links, we have:

  1. One Red Paperclip - The mission: trade a paperclip for a house (indirectly, of course).
  2. Cthulthu and Christ - Parody of Jack Chick's obnoxious tracts.
In a geekery tribute:

  1. 8 bit D&D - An 8 bit D&D Mock-umentary.
  2. The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising - Honest-to-God indie films about a bunch of D&D gamers. The clips are hilarious... Dorkness Rising should be out on DVD this fall.

And the Sheldon Goes to...

John Leo is handing out his annual Sheldon Award! For those of you who don't know what the (in)famous distinction is:

given annually to the university president who does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus. As all Sheldon fans know, the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way.

This year's contest ended in a two way tie:

President V. Lane Rawlins burst onto the Sheldon scene when his university—Washington State—organized and financed the disruption of a controversial student play. FIRE showed that the university had paid for the tickets of students who shouted down the actors and stopped the performance. The play, “Passion of the Musical” by Chris Lee, was a satire starring Jesus and Lucifer among others. It managed to offend gays, Jews, blacks, Christians and other groups on campus. Rawlins defended the disrupters, saying they had “exercised their rights of free speech in a very responsible manner.” Moist-eyed Sheldon judges said, admiringly, “Anyone who defends the stopping of a play as a free speech right, and finances the operation, has our full attention.”
Rawlins broadened his Sheldon appeal in the highly publicized case of student Ed Swan, who was threatened with expulsion from the Washington State teacher-education program after he expressed conservative religious and political views. Swan was told he could stay if he underwent mandatory diversity training and special faculty scrutiny. Instead he called FIRE. Rawlins and the university backed down.
Another heavyweight Sheldon contender is the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul, a Catholic university in Chicago. Though in office only 22 months, Holtschneider has already presided over three Sheldon-attracting controversies.
  • A veteran, part-time teacher, with a good record, Thomas Klocek, was suspended without a hearing after a verbal run-in with pro-Palestinian students at a school fair. He refused an order to apologize, and balked at the university’s plan to put a monitor in his classes. Then he sued.
  • The college Republicans were found guilty of violating a campus prohibition against “propaganda” after handing out flyers criticizing an upcoming lecture by radical professor Ward Churchill.
  • Sponsors of a mock bake sale satirizing affirmative action were hauled on the carpet. The were found not guilty of harassment, but then censured because the university said their application for table space was faulty. Holtschneider denounced the sale as “an affront to DePaul’s values of respect and dignity.”

Link from Phi Beta Cons.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Two great posts from Cato@Liberty on two of my favorite topics: social security and healthcare. Both make important points.

On the social security front, Michael F. Cannon beats to death (again) the myth of the social security "trust fund." But he then adds a new wrinkle, with a simple proposition:

    • If the government knows that there are no assets in the Social Security and Medicare "trust funds,"” and yet projects the interest earned on those non-assets and the date on which those non-assets will be exhausted, then the government is lying.

    If that's the case, then these annual trustees reports constitute an institutionalized, ritualistic lie. Also ritualistic is the media'’s uncritical repetition of the lie.

    Maybe we'll finally get some straight talk on the issue now.But but don't bet on it.

    As far as universal healthcare is concerned, it appears that most countries who claim to have it arrive at that conclusion by creatively defining "universal":

    Ezra Klein thinks some countries have achieved universal health coverage. Ramesh Ponnuru demurs: "If you can't get an operation because your country's national health insurance system has you on a long waiting list, in what sense have you enjoyed '‘universal coverage'?"” Klein replies by defining away the problem: "waiting for an elective procedure -— no country I know of has waiting lists for emergency procedures -— that you then receive doesn't contravene the terms of health coverage at all."”


    The evidence seems to lean toward Ponnuru's position. A few items:

    1. Canada's Supreme Court wrote in a case last year: "The evidence shows that, in the case of certain surgical procedures, the delays that are the necessary result of waiting lists increase the patient's risk of mortality or the risk that his or her injuries will become irreparable. The evidence also shows that many patients on non-urgent waiting lists are in pain and cannot fully enjoy any real quality of life." So the issue isn't just about elective or unnecessary medical care, or just about mortality risk. (Next Monday, the Cato Institute will release a study by the doctor who litigated that case.)
    2. In a 2004 poll conducted by the Stockholm Network, residents of France and Germany expressed the least dissatisfaction with treatment delays (out of eight European nations surveyed). Nonetheless, the French and Germans who were dissatisfied with their health care system's waiting times outnumbered those who were satisfied (50 percent and 55 percent dissatisfied, respectively). So there may be a problem in those countries, even if the authorities do not measure it. (Perhaps we could approach the uninsured the way that France and Germany approach waiting times, and just stop counting them.)
    3. There are indications that people who actually get sick in the U.S. fare better than in nations with "“universal" coverage. Women who get breast cancer in Germany are slightly more likely to die of it than breast cancer victims in the U.S. (31 percent vs. 25 percent). For prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to die of it in Germany as in the U.S. (44 percent vs. 19 percent). More such data can be found here and here. If that's the case, the appeal of "universal" coverage fades.

    Some food for thought, at least.

    Yesterday, Nancy Kruh wrote a column discussing just how repetetive Bob Herbert's columns have become. Now, there's no need for the real Bob; we've got Automatic Bob!

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Catallarchy has a May Day tribute up for all those who died under Communist rule. Check it out. That's why I hate communism/socialism/stalinism/etc.